The San Jose Earthquakes wrapped up their matches in the group stage of the MLS is Back Tournament by vanquishing the Chicago Fire to cement their spot as Group B winners.
The 2-0 victory for Matias Almeyda’s men on Sunday allowed the Earthquakes to clinch first place and continue the Earthquakes’ excellent form since the restart.
Neither team looked threatening in the first 45 minutes, as both teams were cautious and unwilling to make the first mistake. Chicago knew they still have a game in hand after Sunday’s match, while San Jose needed just a draw against the Fire to guarantee their spot in the knockout rounds.
Andy Rios and Jackson Yueill helped break the game open in the 56th minute when Rios chested a pass to Yueill. The 23-year old midfielder then played a perfectly-weighted left-footed through ball to Cristian Espinoza. He curled his run, took a touch away from defender Francisco Calvo, and slammed home the night’s first goal.
Fire forward Robert Beric looked lively in the second half, but his attempts at goal ultimately proved ineffective.
Just two minutes after a triple change, San Jose found the back of the net once again thanks to Chris Wondolowski. Fellow substitute Carlos Fierro whipped in a perfect cross in the 83rd minute to set Wondolowski up beautifully to help him add to his MLS career-record goal total, which is up to 161.
The Earthquakes’ knockout round match will take place on July 27th against a team to be determined. The Fire’s final group stage game will see them face Vancouver on July 23rd.
Man of the Match
Cristian Espinoza: The speedy winger was a handful all night, and not only did he deliver the key goal to turn the tide, but Espinoza also contributed defensively, with three successful tackles and tireless two-way work.
Moment of the Match
Espinoza’s goal: Espinoza had the first clear-cut chance of the game, and he did not disappoint. His run was perfectly timed, and he showed composure in the finish. The play unlocked San Jose’s attack, which was less than threatening up to that point.
Match to Forget
Francisco Calvo: The Costa Rican centerback was implicated in both goals. In the first goal, Calvo was unable to track Espinoza’s run or block his shot. He was also too disconnected from Mauricio Pineda when he stepped to defend Rios. On the second goal, he was one of three defenders who left a clinical Wondolowski wide open to put the game out of reach.